Saturday, December 26, 2009

End of Year Review...Kinda

It's nearing the end of the year, all Critics Association and online bloggers alike are putting out "Best of Year" lists. Around this time is when I planned on putting out mine, along with vague shoutouts to my favourite performances, aestetics, aural values etc. however as stated in the former post, there are about 10-15 films I want to see before I can really do a proper analysis. However, which the amount of selection I have now I can make a few other end of year thoughts.

Surprise of the Year: Star Trek
I hardly thought I'd like Star Trek, let alone love it like I do. I figured it'd be a poorly acted enactment of a poorly written Star Trek episode, filled with Trekky appeal. I saw the film a week after it's release, hearing about the critical and public concesus raves about it, although I was still in disbelief. How often were movies based off of tv shows really any good? Sex and the City was so-so, The Simpsons Movie still came off as one long amazing episode, and the X-Files movie was...well I didn't want to believe. I wanted to go home. Star Trek, a long running, nerdcore franchise would surely fall into the same trappings right? My skepticism was soon to be justified I thought.

I thought wrong. You definetly don't have to "live long and prosper" to enjoy this sci-fi super special. It was sleek, stylish, smart and lacking in basically all the nerdy appeal I thought it would be swimming in. Rather than rely heavily on topics and dead ideas from the episodes, it does the smart thing. Takes the general skematics of the franchise and builds the movie from the groundup, becoming a bonafied reboot of a somewhat forgotten franchise.

(Runners Up: After the very mixed reaction at Cannes, the very odd premise-even for the director, the silly looking ad, and the disappointment of his last film, Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, was a very welcome surprise. Also Monique's monsterous turn as a monster of a mother in Precious came off as surreal and horribly shocking. It's spit the hot coffee out of your mouth good.)

Definite Breakout Performance of the Year: Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa

In a film that was sold as a Brad Pitt comedic WWII vehicle, Waltz is a definite slap in the face to anyone who wasn't ready for it. He portrays Col. Hans Landa, an Austrian detective for the Nazis whose skill in detecting Jews has lead to the nickname the "Jew Hunter". Obviously a very villainous occupation, but on the flipside, he's a romantic savant and frequent chatterbox. Ample in his mystery, genius in his precision, endless in eccentricity, this multilingual role is definetly worthy of all the raves. Being a Tarantino film, it features a slew of odd and interesting characters, but Waltz runs away with the brilliant movie. And are we mad at our evil little scene stealer? No, the exact opposite.
That's a bingo.
(Runners Up: Once again, Monique's equally evil mom in Precious completely owns hescenes, however she's not in the film enough for me to say she completely devours the movie as Waltz has done here. Jeffrey Dean Morgan interpatation of the Comedian in the superzero movie Watchmen gleefully distorts whatever scene he walks into. South African newcomer, Sharlto Copley anchors District 9 with muscle to spare.)

LMFAO!!: The Hangover

Could there really be any other that made it here? The R Rated comedy has been rising in popularity in recent years, normally featuring a combination of sweetness, raunch, and a general realization that a comedy film is still a film and not just binded to the genre. Finally, The Hangover is released, a movie that entirely understands itself as an R Rated comedy. Lovable, but not deliberately funny characters are a must, a fantastical yet somehow realistic series of events, and it of course, has to be hilarious. And the Hangover is, hilarious. Almost every scene, every line, every piece of imagery. Any flaw that you could find can be forgiven in lou of the movie's potency in laughter making.
What's the hidden ingredient I wonder. Is it how well it connects with audiences? I know people who have many stories about Las Vegas, some are probably crazier than the movie itself. Is it the easiness of the film itself? It doesn't demand to be laughed at at all. It feels like a casual recounting of a very crazy story. Or is it just what it is. A genuinely hilarious movie that is universally funny in some way? I don't know. That's the magic of laughter. Sometimes, you just don't know.

(Runners Up: Up is arguably the funniest Pixar film since Toy Story 2, the buddy comedy mix of wit and slapstick will leave many eyes wet with tears of laughter. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince comes off as a poignant horny teen comedy among other things.)

The Biggest Disappointment (aka the Epic Failure): Jennifer's Body

Hipster movies are becoming a larger part of cinema by the year, ranging from teen comedies to indie films with charm. Jennifer's Body stars iconic actresses (for teens) Her Lady Hotness; Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls, Mamma Mia!) and is screenwritten by Oscar winner Diablo Cody who recently won for penning one of the most famous hipster indie movies of all time, Juno. So you'd think this movie has oodles of potential eh? Maybe enough potential to potentially be the potential hipster movie of the year? Potential!?

But as it came to pass, Jennifer's Body made very few ripples with hipsters, critics or at the box office. The horror comedy about an uber hot vampire chick eating local teenage boys featured a few snarky laughs, good turns from its actors and some poignant observations. However, while there are some positive aspects, the negatives are quite heavy and outweigh the appeal of the film. Indecisive narrating, often awkward screenplay and uneven plot elements. Although the movie is somewhat enjoyable it left me saying: what was the whole point?

So to round off, Jen's Body wasn't really a bad movie. That's not why it fails. Just disappointing in that it offered quite a bit of that "p"ord used frequently above, and capitilized on almost none of it. And that my friends, is a fail. An epic fail.

(Other Epic Fails: Public Enemies suffers asimilar problem, although the magnitude of its failure is somewhat less prevalent in a weird way. Transformers Two instead of continuing with the strange amount of humanity found in the first installment, the sequel merely capitalizes on big box office, summer smash cliches...also fuck Michael Bay.)

Most Undervalued Performance: (tie)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian and Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre

The reasoning for these two distinctions are polar opposite.

In Morgan's case, his hauntingly dead-on portrayal of the heavily nihilistic Comedian in the film adaptation of Watchmen goes virtually unnoticed. He only appears in flashbacks, but when he does, he rocks the very ground that he walks on, unearthing the ideals of the other characters with a mischievous, almost demonic nonchalantness. The character could have very easily been given a chariecturistic tough guy approach. Not so with Mr. Morgan.

o the other side of the spectrum Matt Damon hasn't gotten nearly enough. A few critic circle noms, a throwaway Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy, so what? The performance deserves much more than that, it's arguably career topping stuff. He really has created a subtle, neurotic character arc, spiked with awkward, hokey humour and buffoonery. Plus, he got fat for the role! Then he had to take it all off again for Invictus! Damon is a talented devoted, A-List actor who deserves way more attention then he gets. His Oscar nom for Invictus (which I'm fairly certain he'll obtain) will be deserved, not on the merits of his performance in the film, but on the merits of his frequently ignored skill as an actor.

(Other ignored top players: Marion Cotillard plays just right as Dillinger's girlfriend in Public Enemies, Sam Rockwell is genius in Moon, critics raved for him, but the film was too small to get any real attention which isn't fair at all, Jim Broadbent does it again in Harry Potter 6)

Most Overrated: The Hurt Locker

Now, don't get me wrong. I loved the Hurt Locker. However, why it's getting all this acclaim and all these allocades it's receiving seem unecessary. I thought it was very good. Not great. I felt that the ending was over long, and that for every scene with incredible intensity there were boring scenes as well. Too me it didnt quite equal the sum of all its parts: an effortlessly cohesive ensemble cast, Jeremy Renner, Kathryn Bigelow's powerhouse, high precision and intensity directing as hot as the desert the film takes place in, etc. All things considred it came up short for me and I don't at all understand what it is about the film that everyone seems to love to that extent.

Am I unhappy about all this? Of course not! I still liked the movie a whole lot, however I am merely perturbed as to what appeals to all of these other people (Critics, audiences etc). Oh well, to each their own.

(Runners Up: Uhh...well New Moon while kinda decent, was nowhere near as good as the money it made, or as hyper fan girls say it is.)

And there you have it, a taste of my thoughts on this year in cinema. Please don't hate me for the whole Hurt Locker thing. My top ten list and various other distinctions should be posted next month, or if I really hustle, the end of December.

Holiday Irritations

So many movies, so little time. The end of the year is in roughly one week, and there are still so many movies I want to see! There's just not enough time. In late November your teachers pressure you with "get it out of the way" endeavours (a Christmas concert and a math test or two to trip me over to say the least), and by the time December rolls around the Christmas season is in full swing: shopping, parties, being drunk off your ass, various events, family gatherings, etcetera, etcetera. And all the good movies have to come out now!

On top of that, a lot of these aforementioned good movies predominantly enter theatres in a limited fashion. I don't know how that works in the States, but up here, limited means the film is going to be in 2-4 theatres, most of the time of which you've never heard of, and are very difficult to get too. Hey some don't even appear in Toronto. Some aren't even in Ontario. Some aren't even in Canada! How does Hollywood expect to make money or obtain awards momentum if it's hopefuls only open in 2 out of 100 cinemas everywhere. I'm not going to mission to Ottawa to go and see Me and Orson Welles. And by the time these movies come out on DVD, Oscar season is almost over or *gasp* finito!

Just a minor gripe. Well more like a major annoyance. Also my huge amount of recent business is why I never update. Normally I update when there is very little going on in my schedule. On a regular basis this means once or if I'm lucky twice a week. Lately it's been never. Life gives no handouts, in time, money or cinema levity I suppose.
Movies I want to see that I can actually get too: Nine, Up in the Air, Zombieland, Whip It!, The Blind Side, The Messenger, Astro Boy, Men Who Stare at Goats, The Fantastic Mr Fox, Ponyo

Movies I want to see that will be difficult to catch: A Single Man, A Serious Man (!), Crazy Heart (!!), The Lovely Bones (!!!), Me and Orson Welles

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

*Throws Up*

Anyone whose paid attention to the Cannes Film Festival in May or always observes Willem Dafoe's (Platoon, Spider-Man, Last Temptation of Christ) ever eclectic filmography, you've heard of the Antichrist. The Lars Von Trier film that stirred up quite the controversy at the awards for supposedly horrifying images of gore and perversion. What I was thinking; this I gotta see.

So I did. And I saw. The movie was...a shock to say the least. The first 3/4 of the film are slightly slow, but mounting in horror, with limited score but plenty of haunting imagery to help rack up the fear in the viewer (kudos to the film editor). As well as an opening montage that well, there's no other way to describe it- Willem Dafoe fucking the shit out of Charlotte Gainsborough. Why do I use such terminology? Because I think that's what Lars was attempting to convey. They weren't making love at that time, no love was created only destroyed. Plus the wording is naughty- HEE HEE.

The final act of the movie is punctuated by some brutal, graphic violence. I don't want to get into it but some erm, important appendages were lost. The verdict? Guilt is a very personal, very malleable and very dark and disturbing thing, like a blind, mutilated cobra, striking with its hate filled fangs what it feels needs to be struck, not what it sees. Doesn't make much sense huh? Watch the movie and you'll see.

Charlotte Gainsborough takes over the movie, holding herself together but her acts and expressions shows that she is too discheveled to recreate, and she's well aware, and in the last act, she gives in. Breathtaking, take-charge, experienced, pinpoint work here. And Willem? Good ol' Willem? Reliable as ever as the calm, apathetic mediator, whose guilt is shown in a more quiet, arguably positive way.

Now to the violence. Shock is a very important part of cinema. Every few years a movie comes a long where a style is so different, so affecting, so inspired, so drastically obvious in its use of outside of the box thinking- that the only word that can describe it are shock. Or alternatively, when an aspect of the film is handled in such a way that divides critics and fans alike. Movies that are still talked about today. The violence in this movie is irregardably detestable, not unlike that of the violence in modern horror movies (didn't name any the Saw series...bitches) however even in the blood soaked conflict a sense of meaning can be salvaged. other words I'm not sure what Antichrist is to me. Will it join the ranks of movies such as Fight Club and Reservoir Dogs, as movies that are still topics of discussion among audiences and critics? Or was it just another movie that took it too far. Whichever it was, I liked Antichrist. Do I advise you too see it? Hell no.


Thursday, August 27, 2009


Crap, crap, crap! Shutter Island, Martin Scorsese's newest effort has been pushed from October 2nd to February 19th. And I'm pretty sure fans of Scorcese films are emitting a resounding "palmface" across North America. I sure as hell know I am.

(Formerly known as Ashecliffe)Shutter Island is the film based off of Dennis Lehanes thriller novel of the same name. It follows the story of two U.S marshalls portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio (who is definetly Scorsese's regular at this point, which is fine by me) and Mark Ruffalo (undervalued)who are sent to investigate the escape of one of Shutter Island's, a mental institution for the criminally insane, prisoners. Ben Kingsley appears as a scientist (woo) and Jackie Earle Haley appears as a prisoner on the Island (double woo). With Scorsese helming what looks to be a thrilling premise with a talented cast, why would the distributing company delay it?

It will most likely be a box office hit. The Leo+Martin combo has given the auteur his greatest successes financially(his efforts with DiCaprio garnering over 600 million dollars worldwide during the last decade). Is Paramount worried about Oscar potential then? Technically they shouldn't. The films that Scorsese has worked with DiCaprio on have obtained 26 Oscar nominations, and have won 9. But of course in reality, Oscar doesn't like genre films, and is a thriller. Maybe even a horror. Are they worrying about qualitative value then? Why should they? Scorcese's last film The Departed (A) was his return to true form after the messy Gangs of New York(B-) and the good but very long The Aviator (B).

So whichever reason Paramount decided to push back this wouldbe spellbinder I don't know. All I know is, it had better be good.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Top 20 Actors

This dude's blog I pay close attention too recently put up a Top 25 list of his favourite actors. I was astonished...he normally only raves about his favourite actresses. Oh well. I decided to follow in similar suit. Not many veterans on this list, but these are the people who I normally rush out to see movies of.

Johnny Depp gets top honours for me...he's not really just my favourite actor the man's my idol.

*Johnny Depp, Daniel Day Lewis, Robert Downey Jr, Heath Ledger, Jamie Foxx, Robin Williams, Harrison Ford, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Jack Nicholson, Jim Carrey, Matt Damon, Steve Buschemi, Denzel Washington, Robert DeNiro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Viggo Mortensen,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Can't Wait to See Some Basterds

Forgive my pun, but I'm as excited as the next to see the fan pleasing, veteran auteur Quentin Tarantinos' next film Inglorious Basterds. I'm not entirely sure what he's trying to accomplish with this but the plot revolves around a group of Nazi hunting Jews lead by Aldo Raine (portrayed by Brad Pitt who looks to be ready to deliver Burn After Reading level hilarity). And like most Tarantino films it will feature a wide array of eccentric characters including a maniacal, but suave Nazi official portrayed by Austrian, Christoph Waltz and a bloodloving Jewish man with a baseball bat portrayed by Eli Roth. I'm especially excited to see what Waltz' performance will be like, he won the Cannes award for Best Actor.

It opens this week and I'm eager to see what Quentin will do with this risque premise. Undoubtebly something witty, edgy, and stylish. It makes me think back on all his other films that I've watched...Jackie Browne, Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, Sin City, Deathproof and of course the film that really made him famous Pulp Fiction.

Which is why I feel as if I should list off my Top 3 favourite Tarantino films. Here's a spoiler, Pulp Fiction isn't in third place.

3. Sin City

This wasn't a lone Tarantino project. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller both co-directed with Quentin, however to the trained eye, one can notice his hand appears quite often in the storytelling. The increasingly non-linear plot and the freewheeling, cariectur-esque but still sympathetic performances (notably Mickey Rourke as Marv). It's wide array of characters suits Tarantino's style and the movie revels in his input. He should adapt more comic books. Maybe he should have adapted Watchmen...that would have made sense does anyone else agree? Too late now...


2. Kill Bill Volumes One and Two

I have a feeling that this movie is where Tarantino felt most comfortable behind the camera. The constant samurai references, the standoffs, the honour finally get put to proper use in this film. And of course it makes complete use of his other quirks: frequent, fitting use of popular music, non-linear storytelling, and obvious, but deep performances from his players. Did I mention that the intensity is so mounting that you can hardly ever tell when the film peaks?


1. Pulp Fiction

Did you honestly expect any other film to reach this spot? Not only is it my favourite film by Quentin Tarantino, it is my favourite film all together. No other film reaches such a stylistic resonance, with such depth. Yes this movie is deep in superficiality yet its superficial in its depth. In the load of snappy-gangsterland camp, the dark neo-noir, and even occasional spirtual findings, what is there on the surface has never been stronger, deeper, or more emotionally/mentally grabbing. Ten levels of epic, and one of the few films I've ever watched that really earns an A+.


I've trusted Tarantino for years now and he's only ever totally lost me once (even though I liked Death Proof more than a lot of people let's still forget it ever happeend). Will it be a slamdunk again? Hope to God so.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mann Messed Up

Public Enemies 76/100 "B"

"Johnny Depp is magnetic as usual and the movie is well crafted however it lacks necessary intensity."

Mann's Public Enemies has notably polarized critics, many calling it a stellar crime epic others stating its weakness as a dramatic film. Obviously I walked into PE very wearily. The film comes off as less of a crime epic in my opinion and as somewhat of a crime drama/biopic of the life and times of famous bank robber John Dillinger, portrayed by my favourite actor Johnny Depp. In this respect it succeeds in filming the last days of Dillingers life with careful attention to design and action scene choreography.

So on the biopic end, it passes. However on the crime drama side of things...I wonder. Dillinger really is properly made into a threat throughout the entire movie, this is true, however one can't really capture a sense of what he really is to them. A hero? A villain? Just another robber? The staying power of the movie is arguable. Depp has garnered mixed reviews for his silently intense portrayal as Dillinger, and I suppose I can see why, however I do believe he's on his "A" game in this film, Mann put heavy focus on him and Depp definetly earned the attention. Bale is always a delight in movies, however once again he is grossly underused. Marion Collitard is a talented woman but she too is underused in loo of Depp's Dillinger.

To be honest, the movie is pretty good. Everybody noticeably worked very hard on it, the lines are sharp, the acting is solid and the narrative is well Mannworthy. However the film just doesn't captivate you like it should considering all the talent and effort involved. And I mean crime drama need to be intense, not necessarily gritty or dark but still gripping and thrilling. The movie just doesn't do that effectively. Basically, I liked the film but am a bit disappointed.